Hot Tip: Read horoscopes for your Moon and Rising signs.

Who doesn’t enjoy reading their horoscope in newspapers or online from time to time?  It’s entertaining, even when they’re super vague (or, in some cases, totally made up by non-astrologers).

If you’re just dipping your toes into astrology and reading a quality column, you might notice that some editions resonate with you a lot more strongly than others.  This is partly due to an inaccuracy in how the dominant culture talks about astrology.

Everyone knows “their sign,” but the truth is that no one has just one sign.  When you say, for example, “I’m an Aries,” what you really mean is, “my Sun is in Aries.”  The sun sign is the only astrological placement you can know just from the month and day of your birth.*  But it only gives you information about a specific part of your personality–your basic set of assumptions about the world, and the stuff you need to do and experience in order to feel effective and fulfilled.  But there are other points in the chart that give a lot more information about how you feel and how people interact with you.

Your Moon sign reflects your overall emotional patterns and the ways you seek security, as well as your family relationships and home environment.  You won’t get much astrological information about your moods unless you’re paying attention to your Moon sign.

You have to look up your Moon sign (I’ll tell you how in a second), because the Moon only spends about 2.5 days in each sign.

Your Rising sign, or Ascendant, shows your general strategies for interacting with the world. Have you noticed that people who try to guess “your sign” (aka Sun sign) are usually wrong, even if they’ve spent some time studying astrology?  While your Sun sign represents a part of your personality people don’t necessarily see until they get to know you well, your rising sign shows how you first come across to people.  That makes it more likely to be the one that someone would guess.  It’s also more likely to be a sign you identify with, because it represents more or less conscious strategies for interacting with the world.  And of course, those strategies tend to shape what you receive back from the world, since you can only get what you’re open to.  So this point can give some good information about what happens to you, particularly in terms of relationships.

You have to look up your rising sign, because it changes every two hours!

Can you see why it would be useful to look these up?  Here’s an easy way to do it:

1. Click here to go to’s birth chart look up form.

2. Enter your birth info, including time to the minute if at all possible.  “In the evening” will not work.  “6:37pm” is what you’re looking for.  If you have to guess, get as close as you can.  (If you have no idea about the time, select “unknown”.  You can’t find your rising sign, but you can probably get the correct Moon sign.)

3. Click “continue.”  On the next page, you’ll see your natal chart, the big wheel with all the red and blue lines on it.  See the list of planetary bodies in the box to the left?  Each line should say something like “Sun 24Gem41’47″”.  That translates as “Sun in Gemini, 24 degrees, 41 minutes and 47 seconds.”  You’ll want to know all that degrees and minutes business if you get more into astrology, but right now you’re probably just looking for the sign abbreviation (in this case, “Gem”.)

4.  Find the sign abbreviation for your Moon (the next line after “Sun”).  If you don’t know the names of the signs well enough to recognize the abbreviation, here’s a list: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces.

5.  Your rising sign is listed in the chart as “AC” (which stand for “ascendant,” another name for rising sign.)   It’s near the bottom of the list, right after Chiron.

That’s it!  Now you have way more information to play with about your astrological self.  Have fun looking up these newly-discovered signs of yours.  If you can’t get enough, there’s lots more to learn about Mercury, Venus, and all the rest.

*It’s even possible that you’re wrong about your sun sign, if your birthday is on the cusp.  I have a friend who thought he was a Virgo for his whole life (a sign that doesn’t describe his personality well at all), but when I looked up his chart, he turned out to be a Leo (which makes sense).  If he’d been born two hours later, he’d have been a Virgo.

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You might also like:

“Hey baby, what’s your sign?”: what your sun sign tells you (and doesn’t).

You’re not “a Taurus”: what your moon sign can tell you. 

The astrology of relationship–and why you might get along with Aries better than you think.